Being present as a spiritual exercise; day 16 of Ramadan

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“The present moment is filled with joy and happiness. If you are attentive, you will see it.” – Thích Nhất Hạnh

All too often in my life I am constantly on the go without truly being aware of what I am doing in the now, and a good deal of the time I am able to dial back into myself and be present, this act is known as mindfulness.

I first learned about mindfulness as I helped assist in a Dialectical Behavior Therapy with some of my former residents. We discussed as a group the power of presence, and to a certain extent being aware of the here and now all while being present. So for instance, I am in my kitchen in my apartment typing up this post. I am slightly chilled because I went swimming earlier and my central air has done its job at keeping my house cool for the summer. I am smiling because I’ve had a good day spent mostly outdoors enjoying the Independence Day parade in my hometown…and so on. This act, which I do think of being a spiritual exercise, helps me keeps things in perspective, and so I practice mindfulness frequently and add it to my style[s] of praying as well.

Being present has helped me become more intuitive, that after a period of go go go, I am able to start filtering out what’s been said and what has really been said. Because, and not all the times mind you, this is actually about that; the reason someone became upset and stormed may have been this thing, but perhaps what led up to that one thing setting them off was finding out their mother wasn’t doing well, that they have a quarterly review coming up, etc. And so we get a part of the story but not all of it, and those individuals need grace just like we all do.

So with all that being said, mindfulness was my keyword on the 16th day of Ramadan. Thanks be to God who is ever present in all our lives! May we learn to take things at a slower pace so that we might become more in tune with ourselves and with each other and what the will of God looks like in our lives.

Salaam alaikum be yours now and always,
Nathanael

P.S. 5 Steps for Being Present

love requires proximity – of evangelicals, reformed sex offenders and pedophiles

Love requires proximity has been the mantra of my heart for a while now, it unsettles me, it gets me out of comfort and drives me into the direction of where rubber hits the road time and time again. Yet there are still people I have yet to engage, and lately as I’ve been meditating and praying over who do I need to invest in that I’ve put off in investing I’ve come up with 3 groups of people:
1.) Evangelicals (across the board, not simply fundamentals)
2.) Reformed sex offenders
3.) Reformed pedophiles

Now I cannot fully explain the latter 2, but I can certainly address the first one.

I once identified as being an Evangelical in my life. I knew the Bible verses, I knew the songs, I had good answers to difficult questions, I had good torts and rebuttals to those who dared rattle my belief system, I had belief and I thought I knew it all and in knowing it all that’s all that mattered.
Funny, God must be a fan of baseball, because God certainly threw a few curve balls my way.

– God put members of the LGBTQ community in my life, and so I needed to rethink what I thought / what had been instilled into me.
– I wrestled with doubt and questioning (and I still do) and realized the shakiness of my foundation…and being okay with not being okay.
– I worked in youth ministry contexts where students went through issues I never imagined because I was wrapped up in bubble wrap whilst in my Evangelical bubble.
– I furthered my education in science and learned how there is evidence that the world isn’t young (gasp!) and that there is strong evidence to support evolution (double gasp!) and yet I see God’s handiwork in it all.

among other things…

And now on the outside of Evangelicalism I hold know position of being “better” or “more evolved” for where I am now. I realize that my season of being an Evangelical took something from me, but it also gave me a pretty good foundation as to where I am now. Yes it wasn’t all good, but that’s why with much of life’s experiences I have or am in the process of thanking God for that season of life. I am also finding ways to “eat the meat and spit out the bones” of these experiences.
But back to love requiring proximity… The Evangelical camp is one I have until recently distanced myself from, but 2 things have shifted that, one local and one a bit more broad.

***

Locally I am involved with a Bible study that meets on Tuesday nights at various restaurants in the area. We’ve been going over Ephesians and soon we will will be starting a book about idolatry. The individuals who make up this group are diverse in their thinking, as with many groups of people, one thought pattern doesn’t fit all. And while I knew some of these guys prior to being a part of this Bible study, I know them a bit better than merely what’s on the surface.
I appreciate sharing with them my insight and I appreciate what they have to offer up as well, even if we tend to go down quite a few rabbit trails. 🙂 It has been a real blessing investing time with these individuals, not because I have a time-with-Evangelicals quota I need to fill but because it comes back to (you guessed it) love requires proximity.

***

On a larger swath which I am looking for ways to connect, is Brandan Robertson’s Evangelicals for Marriage Equality campaign.

Marriage equality isn’t something I think about when it comes to Evangelicals, I admit that I was privately homophobic and used the word Gay as an adjective for stupid or dumb for a brief season of my life, but when Brandan put out some info about this campaign, my heart leaped for joy!
He might be placed under the microscope by many for this bold and courageous move on his part, but I know that it is needed. The world needs more Evangelicals like Brandan, and I will do what I can to help their voices be heard!

Thanks be to God for instilling in me the desire to love in proximity to others for the goodness of others.

~Nathanael~

[in hindsight] what my depression looks like

Well, I’m out of the thick of it, the latest round of my depression that is.

It’s not something that happens all that often to me, but I do realize that it is there. Depression with a capital D, which for me usually looks like this.

Some catalyst occurs in my life (in this case, being unemployed) and I start worrying and thinking negative thoughts about myself, my identity, what I’m capable of, what I’m good at, my value to the world and so on…I also over-analyze even more so; as if I have a scarlet “D” pinned to my chest for all the world to see, as if my emotions and thoughts that course through my mind are translucent and knowable to anyone who catches my gaze even for a fleeting moment.

I stay up later, I wake up later, and I become antisocial and limit my contact with friends and family. I do realize that I do want to hang out with them, but there’s a part of me that thinks “God and I have this, why do I need community?” Yet my bro Mark who has seen me in this state of mind (and body and spirit) shakes me to my senses about the value of community. In these coming-to moments I “get it” even if I don’t practice it out.

I eat…when I remember to eat. I have lost some weight now that I’ve gotten back into a routine of working out, but more weight has been lost in my time of depression than in my time of getting into shape. It’s kind of odd, but I will remember the last time I ate, but not really weigh out the ramifications of having eaten, oh, 2 days ago?

I keep to my pattern of living, but in an empty shell half-assed kind of way. I realize I take in what people have to say, but I listen half-assed, I engage in community, but what I have to bring is half-assed, which only fuels my depression a bit more since I feel as people are fully aware of my half-assedness and are judging me and whispering behind my back when it’s turned.

And stranger still in the midst of my depression, in the midst of my despair- I find God to be present and very comforting at that. I don’t read the bible all that much (though I do plan to do that very soon) any more, but I find myself at a place (despite my circumstances) where I feel wave after wave of “a peace that passes all understanding” (Philippians 4:7) a pulsar-like notion that “I [God] am here…I am here…I am here”.
This doesn’t stir me from my depression, but it does help ease my pain.

***

I realize this is a part of me and that there’s no escaping it. It ultimately helps me when I’m in the throes of depression that God is there and community is there as well; I might pull back and isolate myself, but it’s there any time I need it. Even when I choose not to accept it, just knowing that it is there is reassuring.

Still I realize that I’m not alone in my depression, that there are other people who have this as well. We (who have depression) aren’t alone in our struggles, which is why I don’t feel like a hypocrite for posting this:
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I know how to work through my depression, but please take heed to the phone numbers above and use them if you need to. Not every bout of depression produces suicidal ideations, but still you can call and share (if you want to) what you’re feeling and what you’re going through. They’re good people on the other end of the line, trust me, I worked with some of the individuals.

Onward and upward,
Nathanael